Sunday, November 15, 2015

High Fantasy - Enchanted Items

OK, so the last post tried to establish that as long as anyone can learn to enchant (no special birthmarks needed), you will have a high fantasy game because there will be greedy or ambitious people who will want to make lots of money. But we (intentionally) glossed over the fact that there would be people willing to buy the enchanted items. Let’s look at that!

We established in Book of Wishes that an illumination enchantment would cost about 300sc. We established in Grain Into Gold that the average guy earns about 10sc per day. So for the average guy to buy an enchanted lamp, it would cost about a month’s salary. Seems out of whack, right? Well, we never wanted to portray this as “the average guy” is buying enchantments. But, we do think that the upper middle class and the upper class could be buying these. Here’s how and why: An enchanted lamp (as we showed last time) saves a person about 9sc per month in candles, so over the course of about three years, the lamp pays for itself. But only people with enough disposable income can afford to invest in this manner. The poor slobs at the low end of the economy can barely afford rush lights - they aren’t forking over the money for a magic lamp or even beeswax candles.

Skilled craftsmen, like locksmiths and distillers, would likely average ~15sc per day. (If this doesn’t make sense to you, you really need 100 Professions!) But that’s for workers. If you are the master of the lock making shop, you’re going to be making more. In fact when I’m trying to figure out bigger operations, most of my “bosses” (managers who don’t own the place) are often making 20sc a day. Now, you’re only talking about half a month’s salary. Healers and full on spell casters are closer to 50 a day. Beginning adventurers probably only get paid about 10sc a day like a sentry would, but they get all of their money at one time (after basically camping and living off the land for months on end). That’s why they can afford to buy magiced weapons and armor - because they effectively saved for a couple of months while they traveled to and from the zone of danger.

But that probably makes you wonder why we’re talking about magic lamps and not magic swords. That’s easy - I can tell you down to the last copper penny what you save by having a magic lamp that lasts forever. I cannot easily monetize the value of a magic sword. With the sword - The value is in the eye of the buyer. It should increase his chances of survival (by killing his enemies quicker), but what’s his life worth? More importantly, what’s the extra “edge” worth? Probably everything he has. Therefore, it’s tough to intelligently quantify and doesn’t work economically. Also - I have said often that while adventurers are an important part of the fantasy world, they are a very small part of it. Economics is about strong and steady business, not the “rock stars”. Knowing what an up and coming merchant would do is actually more important when figuring out prices and values than what a crazed sword swinger would do. (“crazed sword swinger”? that’s redundant)

All right, we’re going too far in that direction. Who would buy a magic lamp? The upper crust. So what do we know? They are not going to buy a piece of scrap leather even if it glows brightly. Minimum is probably a brass lamp or hooded lantern. A cheap brass lamp with a glass chimney runs about 5sc. But would a rich guy have one in his home? Maybe, if it were deep in his office somewhere and only seen by him. But if it is out somewhere it is going to have to be prettier. Truth be told, by the time you get done with the fanciest of lamps, the 300sc for the spell might not be the expensive part.
Is there a moral to this story? I think there is. In a high fantasy world, some magical items are going to be worth buying, as long as the person can afford it. Light, heat, clean water, these things are valuable and have a cost. Sometimes magic is the cheap way to get things done, at least in the long run.

Next time - What to do if your magic lamp burns out - or does it ever burn out?

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